CNN Veteran Frank Sesno Slams Media’s Lack of Vetting for Kavanaugh Accusers

After defending the liberal media’s anti-Brett Kavanaugh crusade Saturday night, CNN’s Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter got rebuked by former CNN bureau chief Frank Sesno on Sunday. According to Sesno, the media’s coverage of President Trump was “unrelentingly negative”. He then ripped into the utter lack of standards the media employed before running with uncorroborated allegations against the Supreme Court nominee.

Stelter downplayed the liberal media’s enthusiasm for smearing Kavanaugh as simply “misreporting” on their part. “Do you think the press is coming out of this looking weaker because many people feel that the press chose a side through this,” he wondered.

Yes. Certainly, that's the way it's going to look to Trump supporters and to people who have been questioning media's bias and their ability to report straight for a long time,” Sesno said. After mocking how the media’s approval rating was buried under the basement, the CNN veteran noted that despite the week being “extraordinary” “by any reasonable measure” and yet “the coverage has been unrelentingly negative.

Sesno also noted that after how the media behaved this week "what the public and what the White House come away from this with is some fair territory to wag their fingers and say, I told you so. Even Joe Scarborough goes on the air says the mainstream media was unfair toward the President."

“So, there’s going to be some very serious thinking now and as the county – as you pointed out—as divided, more divided than it’s ever been coming out of this Kavanaugh thing around this stuff,” Sesno lamented. “I think the challenge grows greater for the media to figure out where it's going and how it's going to try to find balance in all of this.

 

 

Stelter then asked Sesno about suggestions from the right that the media wouldn’t have ran with the uncorroborated allegations if this was Bill Clinton “20-years-ago”. He was speaking of Republican strategist Sara Fagen who decried the liberal media on MSNBC. Stelter wanted to make it about Kavanaugh’s second accuser, Deborah Ramirez. And not the insane charges of “gang rape” parties brought by “creepy porn lawyer” Michael Avenatti (who Stelter says is “serious” 2020 threat).

Fagen was speaking on MSNBC, the same network that aired an interview with Avenatti’s client, Julie Swetnick despite admitted they couldn’t corroborate her wild accusation. Meanwhile, back in the ‘90s, NBC sat on an allegation against Clinton. So naturally, Sesno emphatically agreed with her:

Absolutely! Absolutely! I was bureau chief here, you know, at CNN during the Lewinsky thing. We had a series of procedures to make sure that hearsay didn't get on the air and that we were going to confirm it ourselves before we put it on the air. That's completely been overtaken by events now with social media and other forms.

But what does confirming mean? What does confirming mean nowadays, if it's an on the record accusation but without a lot of corroborating evidence,” Stelter shouted, demanding to know.

Sesno shot back, noting that when he was in charge they would need “some corroborating evidence, multiple sources.” “Ford had some corroborating evidence. She had her therapy. She had documentable places where she raised this,” he explained. “We would have reported that. But some of the other things, I agree, we would not have reported in ‘the old days.’

The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:

CNN
Reliable Sources
October 7, 2018
11:05:07 a.m. Eastern

BRIAN STELTER: This controversy involving Kavanaugh only transpired because of the press – because of the Washington Post story, about Ford and the New Yorker story about Deborah Ramirez. There has been so much reporting. And frankly, Frank Sesno, some misreporting. Do you think the press is coming out of this looking weaker because many people feel that the press chose a side through this?

FRANK SESNO: Yes. Certainly, that's the way it's going to look to Trump supporters and to people who have been questioning media's bias and their ability to report straight for a long time. We know where the public trust numbers are for the press, and it's generally somewhere down below the basement.

Look, the fact of the matter is, by any reasonable measure, this has been an extraordinary week for this president. Forget the Russia investigation. Forget the tax story. Forget all the rest. Trade deal with Mexico and Canada, unemployment numbers that haven't been this low since 1969. And following through on what he said, which was to remake the Supreme Court and a triumph with Kavanaugh himself.

The coverage has been unrelentingly negative. In many cases deserved that the kind of coverage a president – any president gets. But what the public and what the White House come away from this with is some fair territory to wag their fingers and say, I told you so. Even Joe Scarborough goes on the air says the mainstream media was unfair toward the President. So, there’s going to be some very serious thinking now and as the county – as you pointed out—as divided, more divided than it’s ever been coming out of this Kavanaugh thing around this stuff, I think the challenge grows greater for the media to figure out where it's going and how it's going to try to find as balance in all of this.

STELTER: You hear something that Sara Fagen said on MSNBC the other day. She said 20-years-ago some of these allegations like the Ramirez story in the New Yorker wouldn't have been published. Here’s what she said.

SARA FAGEN: You know, 20 years ago, no major news publication would have even published those second allegations. The second allegation or third allegation. So, we are now in a different place in this country.

STELTER: Frank, is that true?

SESNO: Absolutely! Absolutely! I was bureau chief here, you know, at CNN during the Lewinsky thing. We had a series of procedures to make sure that hearsay didn't get on the air and that we were going to confirm it ourselves before we put it on the air. That's completely been overtaken by events now with social media and other forms.

STELTER: But what does confirming mean? What does confirming mean nowadays, if it's an on the record accusation but without a lot of corroborating evidence?

SESNO: Some corroborating evidence, multiple sources. Somebody doesn't just step forward—or if they step forward -- Ford had some corroborating evidence. She had her therapy. She had documentable places where she raised this. How she remembered it, whether it's accurate, they are both 100 percent in their recollections, remember when they testified, that's another matter. We would have reported that. But some of the other things, I agree, we would not have reported in “the old days.”

(…)


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